Guitarist Jimmy Bruno, known for his flawless bop guitar, spreads himself in many directions for his latest disc, a seventh for Concord records. The Philadelphia native's adventure on Midnight Blue takes him from modal jazz to jazz-funk and soul, in other words, a 21st century 'back to the future.'
This session, recorded with an all-Philly lineup, may ruffle the traditionalist a bit with Bruno's heavy nod towards the Mister magic days of Grover Washington Jr. and all its soulful spin-offs. But given the level of talent Bruno possesses, he maintains a high standard of musicianship throughout. Inspired by drummer Marc Dicciani and bassist Gerald Veasley's love of funk, this recording session steers through the Philadelphia streets of modern jazz. The disc opens with an electrified version of "Secret Love, both Bruno and Veasley upping the energy. They segue into a groove-oriented "Funk 'n Benny with saxophonist Ron Kerber doing his best Grover Washington Jr. imitation over the electric keyboards of Dave Hartl and Bruno's post-70s rhythm guitar. If they haven't scared Bruno's traditional fans off by the third track, he blows an all-out speed and muscular attack on "Hypertension matching wits and nerve with each sideman. Bruno's clean playing remains throughout. He summons the retro-sounds of the Fender Rhodes piano for "Philly Joe, a dedication to Mr. Jones in a Quincy Jones-styled "Killer Joe seventies sound.
Bruno's walk down the sounds of yesteryear takes him through New Orleans and the shuffle beats of "Fat Tuesday to John Coltrane's (another Philadelphia resident) "Impressions. The band takes on the Trane classic with a turbo-charged drive that transforms it into a dance number, Dave Hartl dancing on the keyboard ala Don Pullen.
Bruno doesn't neglect his hard core fan base here with a couple straight versions of jazz classics "Stella By Starlight and "Perdido. Except for Veasley's electric bass, which neither distracts or detracts from this presentation, the nearly straight-ahead covers complete Bruno's tour of all-things-jazz guitar.
Secret Love, Funk ?n Benny (Jimmy Bruno), Hypertension (Jimmy Bruno), Shades of Grey (Jimmy Bruno), Into the Blue Light (Ron Kerber), Philly Joe (Gerald Veasley), Midnight Blue (Jimmy Bruno), Fat Tuesday (Ron Kerber), First Dance (Ron Kerber), Perdido, Stella By Starlight, Impressions
Jimmy Bruno, guitars, Marc Dicciani, drums, Dave Hartl, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 organ, Ron Kerber, tenor & soprano saxophones, Gerald Veasley, six-string electric bass